200 Years Later
Daley and Halligan Remembered,
Lessons in Prejudice and Justice
By Edward Shanahan
It is not on the community radar yet, but it soon will be. This is the 200th anniversary of the hanging of two Irish immigrants in 1806, for a murder that most believe they did not commit.
Their crime rather was being Irish and Catholic and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which led to them to being hung on what we now call Hospital Hill. A stone monument there reminds us of a time when prejudice and racial animus were enough to get a man killed in full-view of a public throng.
More than 175 years later a kind of exoneration took place with the 1984 issuance of a pardon by Gov. Michael Dukakis of the two Irishmen, Dominic Daley and James Halligan, but that was a little late to help them.
This year has brought about the formation of a widespread community organization that is mounting a series of events as part of the Daley & Halligan Bicentennial. The events go beyond revisiting the travail of Daley and Halligan and are seen as teaching vehicles that explore larger ethical issues such as tolerance, justice and equality.
Having attended some of the organization’s meetings, I can say this a can-do, highly energetic effort, driven in large part by the sizable Irish American community in Northampton and its environs, and headed by David Sullivan of Easthampton, Judge W. Michael Ryan of Northampton and William O’Riordan of Goshen, to name just a few. And it is evident that what is to take place this month and for the balance of the year represent the fruits of many years of research, organizing and advocacy by Ryan, in particular, and his sidekick, O’Riordan.
Also, involved to a significant degree is Historic Northampton and its director Kerry Buckley. A “Daley & Halligan 1806-2006” link on the home page of Historic Northampton’s Web site offers background, history and information about various Bicentennial activities.
Chief among the events will be a series of organized discussions in Northampton, Easthampton, South Hadley, and Amherst focusing on an historical novel written by Michael White, titled “The Garden of Martyrs.” The book is all about Daley and Halligan, their trial in Northampton and the ultimate execution of the two men. White, who teaches at Fairfield University, will read at several locations during the next few weeks. Copies of the book will be available, free, at various venues around the area.
Besides the book discussions, the Bicentennial Committee will enter a float in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day parade, and hold a “wake” and story telling honoring Daley and Halligan at The Harp Restaurant in Amherst on march 31. There will be a dramatic reading based on material prepared by Judge Ryan at Smith College on April 2, and a discussion of “the death penalty “ at the First Churches on April 10. On May 1, the Law Day program at the Hampshire County Courthouse will discuss the legacy and lesson of the execution of Daley and Halligan.
There will be a Daley and Halligan family picnic at the Hadley Young Men’s Club June 2, sponsored by Hampshire Count Sheriff Robert Garvey and Register of Probate David Sullivan,
A major event will be a 200th anniversary Mass on June 4, the date of the hanging of the two men, to be held at St. Mary’s Church in Northampton, followed by a reception and tribute to the two at Historic Northampton later that day.
Ian Inter-faith Service for “justice and reconciliation” will be held June 5 at the First Churches in Northampton.
Throughout the balance of the year there will be other events with perhaps the finale being a daylong Celtic Music Festival scheduled for Look Park on Sept. 23.
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